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Estates: an intimate history by Lynsey…

Estates: an intimate history (2007)

by Lynsey Hanley

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shelved at: 81 : Housing
  PeterKent2015 | Feb 14, 2016 |
shelved at: 81 : Housing
  mwbooks | Jan 22, 2016 |
I really enjoy works of social history. Whether fiction or non-fiction, generally the ones I have read have taken place at the beginning of the 20th century, and most are about poverty.

This book looks at council housing from starting with Lynsey’s childhood in the 1960s and then looking back to the building of council houses for the “Homes fit for Heroes” campaign of the 1910s following the history of ‘Estates’ up to the beginning of the new millennium.

When council houses were built after the First World War, most people rented privately, often in houses in a dreadful condition in slums. The new vision of homes that people could be proud of was an exciting vision of the future. But the reality was that by the 1950s and 60s, enormous estates were being built. These were so large that the people living in them felt isolated. Many lacked decent facilities of shops and pubs and the people living in them were largely stigmatised. Of course, this wasn’t true of all council estates, but those built in large towns often turned into a sort of ghetto, where ‘outsiders’ wouldn’t dare to enter. High rise tower blocks came along and these were often even worse, often referred to as “Slums in the Sky.

Lynsey Hanley, who grew up on a large council estate near Birmingham, explores the rise – and fall – of council housing. I’m not really a political creature and I don’t want to get into a debate about Thatcher, but the policy of selling-off council houses really sounded a death-knell for council housing. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the money had been ploughed back in to rebuilding so that a new generation could become tenants – but councils were expressly forbidden from using these funds to regenerate housing. The upshot was a shortage of houses for people who were unable to afford to buy – meaning they were largely back to renting from private landlords again. Whilst we may not have gone back to the slum housing of old, we do seem to almost have gone full-circle again.

It’s an interesting read. Hanley’s writing is an easy style and her information about council estates is interspersed with autobiographical detail of her own experiences of living in council houses. It is perhaps a little dry in places, but I found it to be very enjoyable.
( )
  Bagpuss | Jan 17, 2016 |
A very good read about social housing in Britain that confirms the old saying that services for the poor become poor services. After the horror of the First World War, many nations in Europe started to clear up their horrible urban slums and created social housing for both the poor and the lower to upper middle class. Up to the 1950s, the houses built were progressive and included modern elements desired by even the better off.

With the start of the Wirtschaftswunder of the 1960s came a separation. The middle class suddenly ventured out into suburban life, separating itself geographically from the poor (often by placing a highway as a barrier). By ingenious design of placing its social housing all over the city in good and bad neighborhoods, Vienna prevented most of the ghettoization experienced in France and the United Kingdom. The destruction of the northern British economy during the 1970s and 1980s meant that the population living in the council estates was doomed and abandoned by politics.

The huge scale of the council estates meant that individual initiatives could do little to make them more livable. By buying her flat, Lynsey Hanley shackled herself financially to a dying building - quite literally: Due to the bad insulation, one night, she had to listen to a murder taking place in her building. For more than two years, she had to campaign for the right to demolish and rebuild her building. It would be interesting to learn whether that endeavor has ended happily by now or not. Recommended. ( )
1 vote jcbrunner | Oct 31, 2013 |
My guess is that most sociologists who observe and interpret the Council Estates in England have not actually lived on them, and have failed to grasp that underneath the almost Soviet-style drabness which they have acquired not least since the effects of Thatcherism, they are also places of extraordinary intimacy and homeliness and protectiveness. There is good in there with the bad - and the real picture is much more complex and nuanced than it looks. Lesley Hanley, whose roots are on one of these estates, writes with passion and sparkiness about the hopes and disappointments of the estate experience, with anger, when she needs it, at the way the estates have been messed around by planners who didn't understand them, and with an affection which will be recognised by anyone who has shared the experience of life in one of these places, and thought deeply about it. ( )
  readawayjay | Feb 14, 2011 |
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Writing with passion, humour, and a sense of history, Lynsey Hanley recounts the rise of social housing a century ago, its adoption as a fundamental right by leaders of the social welfare state in mid-century and its decline - as both idea and reality - in the 1960s and 70s.… (more)

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